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Cyberbullying in Video Games

Feb 1 2015in Home Page, Whats New admin Comments Off on Cyberbullying in Video Games

Bullying in the Gaming World

On any number of gaming sites or gaming consoles like PlayStation and Xbox, which have the option to connect to the Internet, bullying has become so common between players that one only has to do a simple search to find horrifying stories online about young men, sending disgusting and violent threats both verbally and through a private messaging system. Most of the games are set in war-ravaged scenes or medieval battlegrounds where players attempt to shoot each other.  This creates a hostile environment where players bully each other in order to maintain power and control over other players.

A lot of tension is induced among players and the higher their rank is, the more competitive they tend to become, fearing the loss of their edge over the other players. Women account for forty-nine percent of U.S. gamers, and twenty-five percent of U.S. gamers are under the age of twenty-one.

According to a 2013 study from Ohio University, when a female player in Halo 3, a first-person shooting game, greeted her fellow player, she would be called names like whore and slut. Verbal sparring on forums leads to harassment and abuse, putting young people at particular risk as they are growing up with advancing technology but lack the knowledge to deal with cyberbullying. Players with higher scores tend to be very protective of their gaming avatars (Internet representation of themselves), and if an online gamer has invested hundreds or thousands of hours into his avatar online character or position in a game universe, there can be a significant emotional attachment at stake.

A study by researchers at Simmons College published in the 2011 spring/summer edition of the Journal of Children and Media looked at the development of moral reasoning among children ages 7 to 15 and found that children who play violent video games believe that some forms of violence are acceptable or even right. That is not to say that they will all participate in bullying, but it is the individual’s attitude that matters.

This pro-aggression attitude promotes bullying and harassment. In fact, having feelings is not considered to be cool, so it becomes okay to indulge in hurtful expressions online, including racism, homophobia and misogyny. Gamers who spend a lot of time in their online avatars develop an emotional attachment to their online persona.

Methods of Attacking

1. Griefers-Players who choose specific fellow players to target in the game. They also engage in aggressive behavior outside the parameters of the game, sending threatening messages and posting aggressive comments on public forums.

2. Threats and Harassment-Any game connected to the internet allows players to contact each other through private messages, chat rooms or public forums. People with differing opinions or malicious intent use these to send explicit messages, threats or sexually harass other players.

3. Hacking-Stealing a child’s gaming password and hack into their account. The hacker can send negative messages to people on the victim’s friends list, virtually isolating the owner of the account from the other players with whom they have been playing. In addition, the hacker can lock the owner out of his account by changing the password and other details, effectively pushing the victim out of his game altogether.

4. Virus-Viruses are a real risk when it comes to playing games online. Because chat boxes are prevalent in these situations, bullies and other people who are looking to cause trouble online can post links and include codes that can lead to an infection on other users’ computers. While some of these links and codes are posted where anyone can click on them, some online bullies will target a specific player in the game and send this information privately in an attempt to disable or damage that person’s computer.

How to Protect Yourself

The problem has become so dire it has prompted major corporations to respond. Microsoft even created a new type of system for reporting player harassment and behavior for the Xbox One console. If you are being targeted, you can block certain users from interacting with you. Many companies provide a formal complaint process, through which users maybe be warned, suspended or banned. Potential bullies need to know that consequences exist, while parents should talk to kids about using technology responsibly and acting appropriately online.

If you see someone bullying in a chat room or other public forums, do not be a bystander. Instead take action against the bully, even if the target of bullying doesn’t. Today the target is someone else, but tomorrow it could be you.

You should talk to your parents if you are facing bullying in online gaming. However, if the bullying leads to rape threats or threats of bodily harm, you should consider police action against the bully.  For that, it is best to save all interaction through screenshots and give the folder to the police.

 

Written by, Ravneet Sandhu

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Cyber-bullying is a rapidly growing issue. Learn how to protect yourself Now

May 10 2014in Uncategorized, Whats New admin Comments Off on Cyber-bullying is a rapidly growing issue. Learn how to protect yourself Now

​Protect Yourself on the Internet from Cyberbullying

Stand outside and count as three teenagers pass by; one, two and three.  Now, do it again.  In less than two minutes, you will have counted at least two people who have been cyberbullied.  The sad part, is half of them don’t tell their parents or other adults, even when the bullying hurts or becomes seriously harmful.

 Cyber-bullying is a rapidly growing issue and it shows no signs of slowing down. With the rise of social media sites and digital technology in the hands of youth, knowing how to protect oneself from cyberbullying has never been as important as it is now.

 Twitter  

 On nearly every trending post in the Twitter-sphere, you can find profanity and obscene remarks. Users can protect themselves by reporting and filling out an abuse form or an in-tweet report button on mobile web (which, however, is only available in the UK).

 However, this doesn’t always stop the bully. Should their account be reported, the perpetrator can make a fake one and continue to torment you and others.

 To see results immediately, lock your account so that it is private and visible only to your followers. If there is a person cyberbulling you, keep all records of your interactions and show a copy to your parents, your teacher, or another trusted adult. You can also take a screenshot by pressing PrtScn on the top of your keyboard followed by pasting it into a Word document or Notepad.  If you would like more steps on how to protect yourself, Click.

 Facebook

 On Facebook, cyber-bullying takes the form of being tagged in lewd or humiliating photos, getting unwanted posts on your wall, or being mobbed with inappropriate, hurtful, and unwanted messages.  Even a hate-page can be created against you, which after reported, may or may not be taken down by Facebook.

 To keep yourself safe, only “friend” people you know, block those who persistently make you uncomfortable and report any cyberbullying you see posted, whether it’s someone you know or not. Being socially responsible means looking out for all people online.  Additionally, keep the privacy settings on your time-line stringent, change the tagging feature available to only friends and use passwords that aren’t common. And remember: do not give out personal details, including your telephone number, address, and school name on social media sites.

 You can also work with someone you trust when using Facebook’s Social Reporting tool by sending a copy of the abusive content to them, which will also generate a report on Facebook.

Instagram

 In this world of captured moments, malicious or embarrassing photos can be posted for followers to see, or an insulting remark or a hash-tag may be written underneath your photo.  In fact, bullies can use the “Add People” feature and tag an image with your name without even having to follow you. If the bully is not following you, you will NOT be notified about the photo nor will you be able to see the tag or comments.  Even private text messages can be copied through screenshots and put up on Instagram.

To protect yourself, remove geo-tagging from all images, keep your account private, share confidential details with only whom you trust implicitly and choose all pictures you post with the utmost care.

Tumblr

On Tumblr, it is difficult to create privacy settings that prevent information from being public. As a result, everything you post is public. Therefore, share only the things you don’t mind being copied, pasted and tagged as they may be used against you.  Additionally, people on Tumblr can ask you questions or post nasty comments anonymously, which means you don’t know the identity of the person asking the question.

To stop bullies from attacking you, block any person who makes you uncomfortable and turn off anonymous messages.

Social media sites, if utilized properly can be a boon to all.  You can message a classmate to put up photos of the assignment you missed, talk with a cousin who moved overseas when you were little, or share pictures of your baby nephew.  Just follow the simple rules you were taught as a kid- don’t talk to strangers, don’t do anything that you might regret later on, and be nice to people. By doing this, you’ll avoid most of the problems.  

Written by Ravneet Sandhu

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How Girls Bully and Destroy Reputations to Maintain their Social Status

Feb 2 2014in Whats New admin Comments Off on How Girls Bully and Destroy Reputations to Maintain their Social Status

Girl-on-Girl bullying Can Be the Biggest Blow to a Young Girl’s Self Confidence and It is Usually Hiddlen from Adults 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Almost any teenage girl can quickly identify with the returning hit show, Pretty Little Liars. In this girl-drama, a group of girls are being tormented by an anonymous threat either by text message or in other creative ways. The show is all about a friend of theirs who was murdered a few years ago supposedly by the same person who is harassing them.

When it comes down to it, it is all about popularity in the world of a teenage girl. While in everyday life a murder is not thrown into the mix like on PLL, the relational aggression that is constantly being used in high school is a serious issue.

Relational aggression is basically psychological abuse aimed to lower an individual’s (or group of individuals’) self-esteem. It can take the form of name-calling, gossiping and exclusion. This form of bullying is often overlooked as “normal teenage girl behavior” and is more common among teenage girls than teenage boys.

Girls often use manipulation as a means of getting what they want. In the show, the four girls fall victim to this anonymous number in every episode. The girls feel trapped and are manipulated to do whatever is being asked of them. Feeling cornered by an aggressor is a very unpleasant feeling that many girls can relate to. While most teens are not being manipulated by the thought of someone being murdered like on PLL, simple things regarding their reputation or social status can make girls vulnerable. Cell phones and social networking sites like Facebook play a huge role in how girls bully other girls. Take this scenario for example:

Josie was competing against another girl for the spot of class president. While they were both fully qualified for the position, the other girl received the most votes and won the election. Josie is a more reserved individual, and the other girl sees herself as top of the food chain material. Winning the election was not enough for her though. This girl felt the need to message Josie on Facebook and elaborately explain why people like her better. She writes messages to her telling her “you are set up to fail and will always have the lesser votes in anything you shoot for.” When the two were no longer Facebook “friends”, Josie started getting text messages and anonymous phone calls with demeaning messages such as, “you were never cut out for it anyway.”

As minute as this drama can seem, it’s very harmful for someone like Josie, who would never be able to stand up to it. People who are on the shy side are more prone to soak up all of the negativity and not defend themselves. Having bystanders and friends simply watch as she carries out her agenda to make other girls’ reputations sink makes a bully feel empowered. Popularity becomes more important than doing the right thing or taking the side of someone who is judged as unpopular.  So what can you do?

One strategy that seems to work is not to show a negative reaction when you’re bullied. Confidence and a smile makes bullies feel they have failed. You can’t just appear to be the bigger person; you need to feel like it. If you feel and appear more confident and powerful, there’s nothing that can be said to you by them that would even faze you. That’s not always possible though, a shy person will be a shy person, and there’s really not much that you can personally do. That’s when others need to get involved. It may seem embarrassing to have an authority figure involved, but they are the only ones who can set the record straight.

With shows like Pretty Little Liars that depict bullying as a crazy thriller, it’s very easy to fall victim to relational aggression and not recognize it. “Normal” teenage girl behavior is NOT gossiping etc., that’s bulling. And, if you know how to spot it, you have to learn and know how to end it.

 

Written by, Leda Costa, a recent graduate of Titusville High School (in Titusville, Florida).

 

 

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Flirting, Texting and Getting Around the Danger of Sexting

Feb 2 2014in Whats New admin Comments Off on Flirting, Texting and Getting Around the Danger of Sexting

 

Co-authors and best friends Olivia Baniuszewicz and Debra Goldstein both moved to New York to pursue their dreams when they graduated from college. What they learned was texting, not actually talking on the phone with a guy, was the preferred way to date in the city.  In their book “Flirtexting,” the women write how to have fun with texting, flirting and dating. Melissa Sherman interviewed Olivia who provided interesting tidbits on how to be flirty without crossing over the line and letting peer pressure get in the way.  

What inspired you to write the book? In our early 20s, we were single, living in New York, and found ourselves much like every girl in our same position, sitting on the couch asking each other, "why is he texting me? If he liked me he'd call." We didn't answer guy’s texts and as it turns out found ourselves with a lot fewer dates. That’s when we decided to take matters into our own hands. We had entered the world of digital dating and needed to change the rules of the game if we wanted to keep up. We crafted witty and interesting responses to person’s common texts and this book is filled with these examples plus more.

Were you hoping to help young people avoid the consequences of sexting? Definitely. This was a big part of us writing the Sexting Chapter in our book. In the chapter, we say, "sexting should be reserved for two people in a committed, long-term relationship, meaning you’re planning on walking down the aisle soon – sort of committed." We wanted young people to know sexting is no joke. Chances are you’re in love today but tomorrow it could totally change and that sext is something you can’t take back. Also, we participated in MTV’s documentary called Sexting In America: When Private’s Go Public, where we discussed the dangers of sexting and how to get around doing it in a funny way. We recommend checking this documentary out!

Did you find alternative sexual education courses or experts that provided help with your book? No. The advice and tips in our book were strictly based on our own personal experiences and experiences of others. We preferred speaking directly to our readers and sharing what is worked for us and empowering them to take control of their situations by offering alternatives. We think because we're at an age where we've experienced what teens are going through, we bring more solutions that are relatable to the table. Also, we suggest not letting peer pressure get the best of you and if a guy asks for a sexy photo, poke fun at it and send over a photo of a Victoria Secret catalogue and say “here you go, here’s your sexy picture.”

How is peer pressure today different than it was 20 years ago? We see it’s heightened a lot. We know this one young high school girl who was dating a young man for a year and the way he announced his breakup with her was via Facebook. He changed his status to "single" surprisingly to her. She said it felt like he took a megaphone and just announced it to her whole school in an auditorium. We never used to have these sort of worries back in the day. Today the internet can give off a lot more pressure. 

What are some flirty responses to guys wanting nude pics? We're big fans of this: "Sexy photo? Oh, sure just go to www.nothappening.com and you can find my photo there." He will respect you a lot more for your bold maneuver rather than giving in.

Is this book for adults? Yes. Whether you're new to relationships or new to dating in the digital world, Flirtexting has tips for every digital dater at any age.

Their new book Flirtexting: “How to Text Your Way into His Heart” is now available on Amazon.com.   

 

 

 

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Bullying by Girls May Go Unnoticed, but it’s Just as Damaging as Physical Bullying

Feb 2 2014in Whats New admin Comments Off on Bullying by Girls May Go Unnoticed, but it’s Just as Damaging as Physical Bullying

 

How Girls Bully to Destroy Other Girls’ who threaten their Social Status

Almost any teenage girl can quickly identify with the returning hit show, Pretty Little Liars. In this girl-drama, a group of girls are being tormented by an anonymous threat either by text message or in other creative ways. The show is all about a friend of theirs who was murdered a few years ago supposedly by the same person who is harassing them.

When it comes down to it, it is all about popularity in the world of a teenage girl. While in everyday life a murder is not thrown into the mix like on PLL, the relational aggression that is constantly being used in high school is a serious issue.

Relational aggression may be considered psychological abuse aimed to lower an individual’s (or group of individuals’) self-esteem. It can take the form of name-calling, gossiping and exclusion. This form of bullying is often overlooked as “normal teenage girl behavior” and is more common among teenage girls than teenage boys.

Girls often use manipulation as a means of getting what they want. In the show, the four girls fall victim to this anonymous number in every episode. The girls feel trapped and compelled to follow the lead of the group’s leader and go along with the other girls in the clique.  Feeling cornered by an aggressor is a very unpleasant feeling that many girls can relate to. While most teens are not being manipulated by the thought of someone being murdered like on PLL, simple things regarding their reputation or social status can make girls vulnerable. Cell phones and social networking sites like Facebook play a huge role in how girls bully other girls. Take this scenario for example:

Josie was competing against another girl for the spot of class president. While they were both fully qualified for the position, the other girl received the most votes and won the election. Josie is a more reserved individual, and the other girl sees herself as top of the food chain material. Winning the election was not enough for her though. This girl felt the need to message Josie on Facebook and elaborately explain why people like her better. She writes messages to her telling her “you are set up to fail and will always have the lesser votes in anything you shoot for.” When the two were no longer Facebook “friends”, Josie started getting text messages and anonymous phone calls with demeaning messages such as, “you were never cut out for it anyway.”

As minute as this drama can seem, it’s very harmful for someone like Josie, who would never be able to stand up to it. People who are on the shy side are more prone to soak up all of the negativity and not defend themselves. Having bystanders and friends simply watch as she carries out her agenda to make other girls’ reputations sink makes a bully feel empowered. Popularity becomes more important than doing the right thing or taking the side of someone who is judged as unpopular.  So what can you do?

One strategy that seems to work is not to show a negative reaction when you’re bullied. Confidence and a smile makes bullies feel they have failed. You can’t just appear to be the bigger person; you need to feel like it. If you feel and appear more confident and powerful, there’s nothing that can be said to you by them that would even faze you. That’s not always possible though, a shy person will be a shy person, and there’s really not much that you can personally do. That’s when others need to get involved. It may seem embarrassing to have an authority figure involved, but they are the only ones who can set the record straight.

With shows like Pretty Little Liars that depict bullying as a crazy thriller, it’s very easy to fall victim to relational aggression and not recognize it. “Normal” teenage girl behavior is NOT gossiping etc., that’s bulling. And, if you know how to spot it, you have to learn and know how to end it.

 

Written by, Leda Costa, a volunteer with beyondbullies.org

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Cyberbullying and the Toll it Takes on Teens

Jan 17 2014in Whats New admin Comments Off on Cyberbullying and the Toll it Takes on Teens

Recently, Amanda Todd, a 15-year-old girl from Canada, committed suicide. The reason, she was a victim of cyberbullying.  As read on British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the British Columbia teen uploaded a video to YouTube that described the ongoing bullying she endured over the years. The cyberbullying, which first led Amanda to use drugs and alcohol, ultimately caused her to take her own life.

Sad, But True

Unfortunately, Amanda is not the only teenager who has committed suicide after being the victim of cyberbullying.  As teens use the Internet more often—doing things like downloading photos, participating in social media websites, and chatting online with people they may have never met in person—online bullying is now something that they have to contend with.

There are many online anti-cyberbullying sites where you can report bullying from your own home.  Software that provides firewall protection in addition to parental controls adds another level of security. To learn more about how to protect youth from cyberybullies online, you can read more about each social media protections on the Beyond Bullies Web site. 

The CyberBully Hotline Web site is an anti-bullying system that uses an anonymous, two-way reporting system that routes calls directly to school officials. Because cybersecurity is one of our country’s most important issues, President Obama declared October to be National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

What to Watch For

In order to help our teenagers avoid being bullied online, parents and educators should be aware of the signs that something is amiss. As a National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) article noted, youth who are engaging in  cyberbullying often pretend they are other people online in order to fool others, trick people into telling them personal information, and post photos of others without their permission.

Although cyberbullies typically do not think that their behavior is a big deal, and at times think it’s a joke, the suffering caused by them is no laughing matter.  There are many ways young people can empower themselves against online bullies. These include, blocking communication with the aggressor, deleting their emails and usernames from a “buddylist”, IM or friend’s list or reporting the problem to an Internet service provider or website moderator.

What to Do

The NCPC noted that many young people have figured out on their own how to prevent cyberbullying by doing things like refusing to pass along mean messages online, stopping all communication with the cyberbully and reporting the problem to a trusted adult.

“The key to helping children is having a trusting relationship where feelings can be shared, says Melissa Sherman, the executive director of Beyond Bullies. Without a close relationship, youth may be less inclined to tell you if people are spreading rumors about them, taunting them or threatening them online,” adds Sherman.  

You want children to have their freedom, but there are responsibilities that come with it.  Sharing or posting any personal information online, including their address, full name, telephone number or school name should be off limits.

Written by, Jennifer Stone

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Bullying Signals: SOS ~ Signs of Bullying

Jan 12 2014in Whats New admin Comments Off on Bullying Signals: SOS ~ Signs of Bullying

Warning Signs of Bullying 

Dr. Michal Kolář is a psychotherapist who has been treating bullying for more than 30 years. He has created a special theory and methodology for the diagnosis and treatment of bullying at schools. He also works with the International and European Observatories on School Violence.

In my interview with Michal Kolář, he talked to me about the difficulty parents have when their children suffer from bullying.  In his book, A New Way to Treat Bullying, Michal writes about the signals parents can look for if their child is a target of bullying. Michal says bullying signs can be difficult to detetct and parents who do notice that something is wrong with their child often find that it is very frustrating to get help from teachers and administrators.

Michal explains that when a parent tries to talk to teachers or administrators, they are quick to point fingers and tell them that their child provoked the situation or in some instances started it.  It is common for a parent to hear there was not enough evidence, their child yelled or pushed the bully and no witnesses.  Additionally, often times, when the target and the bully are both suspended and then come back to school, there are no consequences in place to protect the target from the bully or their friends. 

If school polices are in place but do not provide teachers with specific consequences for bullying behavior, children are in jeopardy of being harmed.  Many children, whether they have a good relationship with their parents or not have a difficult time admitting that other kids are mean to them or carrying out a campaign to ruin their reputations.  A target of bullying often believes that somehow they caused the bullying or in some way deserved it.  Michal says, “Admitting to an adult that other kids laugh, push or make fun of you can be a very shameful experience.” Making matters worse is a home environment where siblings or parents put down or ignore the child’s feelings, increasing their insecurities and low self-esteem.  

Weekly, there are stories about parents who are shocked and saddened to learn that their child was a target of bullying.  Their cries for help do not have to go unseen or undone by parents.  In fact, “Individual signals do not necessarily denote bullying“, he explaines.  He places much more significance on the context of the situation, the repetition and frequency of symptoms.  His work was written up for the Ministry of Education. (Guideline Minister of Education, Youth and Sports to prevent and address bullying among school pupils and school facilities)

Signs and Signals of Bullying

• The child does not have friends over or seems to have no friends.

• The child is subdued, sad and depressed.
• S/he suffers from poor sleep, sleep disorders and nightmares.
• They have a lack of interest in participating in sports, family dinners or events.
• Before going to school or after school, complains about headaches, stomach aches, etc.
• Many children visit a doctor or say they are sick before school to avoid bullies.  

• Children may go to school or from school using detours.
• Students may come home with torn clothes, damaged or missing backpack & school aids.
• Make different excuses for losing lunch money and require more money.
• Children may come home hungry even when snacks and lunch were provided at school.
• Child cannot satisfactorily explain his injuries: a black eye, scrapes, bruises,
    slight concussions, a broken or pulled bone, burns, etc.

• Sudden drop in grades and no interest in studying
• Threatens suicide or attempts it
 

”There are some children that do try to talk to their parents about their difficulties at school.  In the beginning stages of bullying, there are cases when the child finds the strength and courage to talk to their parents.  It is very important that when a child opens up about a humiliating experience that a parent should listen, show emotional support and take everything they say seriously. Unfortunately, many parents are act surprised when they first learn about the bullying.  They often react inappropriately.  The only right attitude is to stand firm in love for the child.”
 

Written by, Melissa Sherman, Executive Director, Beyond Bullies

 

 

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Change Starts with You. Sign Petition. Demand Anti-Bullying Education at Your School

Oct 23 2013in Whats New admin Comments Off on Change Starts with You. Sign Petition. Demand Anti-Bullying Education at Your School

The need for school curricula that teaches students how to stop, handle and report bullying is imperative. If students don’t understand how harmful bullying is and what the consequences of bullying are, it will only continue.

http://www.change.org/petitions/anti-bullying-curricula-needed-in-schools Sign now!

Current anti-bullying policies at most schools are ineffective due to a student’s lack of knowledge when it comes to the effects or consequences of bullying. Studies indicate 50% of students feel that bullying can’t be prevented. They have no strategies to deal with it and sadly, 80% of bullying aren’t reported.

Cyberbullying is harder to stop and control. Students, school personnel and parents need to be educated about the harmful effects of bullying. The time has come for new curricula to be in place that deals with the issues facing students today. There have been too many tragedies in the recent school shootings such as Columbine, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and Oikos University. These students were victims of bullying, and due to the lack of education and preventative bullying programs, they did not have the necessary tools to handle such abuse. The students took matters into their own hands and went on bloody rampages in their schools – killing andharming many of their peers.

How can you pass this on to parents, students, school administrators, school board members or the PTA? Click on the link to view a http://beyondbullies.org/take-action-now/letter-to-school-faculty-requesting-bullying-curricula/Sample Letter/Statement to help you: With this letter, you can: •Contact your school’s principal •Contact Members of the school site council •Ask to speak at faculty member meetings •Educate yourself on the impact bullying has on children.

Be prepared to answer questions about the psychological impacts of bullying on children, how it will compliment and not put an undo strain on teachers. In California, for example, after students take their state exams in April, teachers will have more time and may be more receptive. Many middle schools haveLife Science classes and having an anti-bullying curriculum integrated in the class can beneficial. By having your school’s website include a link to beyondbullies.org, you are helping students and school personnel, as well as parents, evaluate school safety before sending their children to school. Please sign the petition.

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Overcoming Middle School Bullying

Jul 25 2013in Whats New admin Comments Off on Overcoming Middle School Bullying

Overcoming Middle School

Going through high school as an introvert with boy-short hair and poor parents made what most people said were supposed to be the “golden years” feel like the dark ages. I never could talk to my classmates easily and you can forget making friends. I’m not sure which was worse – the times when I was teased or the times when I was completely ignored. I thought something was wrong with me. Why was it so easy for everyone else to fit in when I felt so awkward? Why couldn’t I just be normal? I felt like I didn’t have anyone to talk to and no one understood what I was going through. Sometimes I felt like I would never make it through. Sometimes, looking back, I think I barely did.

When I was in 5th grade, my parents decided to move, in the middle of the school year (of all the times we could have moved!), so that my dad could follow his dream of becoming a full time potter. This meant that I would have to leave a school that I loved and be thrust into the wide open darkness of the unknown. I couldn’t believe that I had no say in the matter. As much as I begged and pleaded, my parents wouldn’t budge. The decision was already made. The offer on our new house had already been accepted. So, not only did I become the “new girl” in the middle of my 5th grade year, it was the last year before I was to enter the terrifying stage of junior high.

Looking back, I now realize that middle school was and is an awkward time for everyone. Hormones and growth spurts turn once-adorable children into freakish half-adults. But, at the time, I really thought I was the only one struggling. I felt so alone. All the other girls were filling out their T-Shirts, if you know what I mean, while mine stayed flat. So, my late-blooming combined with my boy-short hair that I mentioned earlier left me looking like a boy and open to ridicule. It didn’t help that I hated dresses, but that’s a different story for another time.

Before my big brother got his driver’s license and was able to drive us every day, I used to have to ride the bus to and from school. My heart would thump with dread as I stared out the kitchen window into the dark winter mornings waiting for the bus to arrive. It was only a 20-minute ride, but it was the worst 20 minutes of my life. A group of older boys would sit behind me and make fun of my hand-me-down clothes, my beat-up shoes and my frizzy hair, but most days they would just blatantly and generally point out how ugly I was. Sometimes, I would try to make some brazen retort, but they were always better at the insults than I was. I only ended up fueling their fire with my meager attempts to defend myself.  Most of the time, I would shrink as far into my bus seat as I could – trying to become invisible and trying to act as if I didn’t care.

But I did care. Back then, I didn’t knowing how to deal with the hurt, so I turned to food. It became my only friend. I had a few hours after school when I was left to my own devices and, though my mother had tried to teach me some restraint when it came to eating; all the stress was too much for me. I would plop myself down in front of the TV and gorge myself on half a package of Oreos, bagels with cream cheese, potato chips, pop tarts and ice cream – all in one sitting.

As a result, even though I had never before had to worry about my weight, this binging at the same time I was going through the lovely stage of puberty not only began to pack on the pounds, but even worse, triggered nasty mood swings.  During this time and for years after, I had no control over my emotions and I didn’t know why. I blamed my ups and downs (downs more than ups) on teenage hormones, then on stress, then on genetics. I finally chalked them up to the fact that I must just be crazy.

What I wish I knew then and what I do know now, after years of research and self-experimentation, is that the food I thought was helping me cope was actually making my life harder. I had sunken into a depression that was fueled by bad food choices. My ability to socialize went from bad to worse. And the extra inches on my waistline demolished what was left of my self-esteem.  What I didn’t realize was that I was treating myself just as badly as those boys on the bus were.

But there was a better way. You see, my biggest problem wasn’t that I had been bullied and teased. My biggest problem was that I had begun to believe the bullies. I had begun to believe that I was ugly and unworthy of love. And therefore, I had stopped loving myself. And, one day, for some reason I still don’t fully understand, I had had enough of my misery. I was tired of feeling bad all the time. So, I made a decision to pull myself out of the hole I was living in. I couldn’t control what my bullies said or did, but I could control my own thoughts and actions. Little by little, I began to show myself love again. I participated in school activities that I was good at like choir and drama, I surrounded myself with my family and my church who I knew loved me unconditionally (even if I was ugly), and I began writing poetry and songs to help work through my feelings. And then, I put down the junk food. I didn’t need it anymore.

While healthy eating may not solve all the world’s problems (though I tend to think it might), it can do a lot toward making us feel better and function at our best. Just like putting the right gasoline in your car will make it run best, fueling your body with the right foods will improve not only your physical appearance, but it will also enhance your brain function, sky-rocket your mood, strengthen your resilience to stress, clear up skin problems and give you the energy to easily get through the day.

Fueling my body with healthy food is just one way that I began to actively love myself again. When I truly loved who I was, the teasing slowly, but surely, stopped. They could not hurt me anymore.

Through healthy food, supportive friends, an uncompromising passion to follow my dreams and a somewhat newly developed compassion for others, I have found balance and control over my emotions. And I have a life filled with my wildest dreams.

I urge you to begin to listen to your heart, even if it’s breaking. Listen to your body, because it’s perfect just the way it is and it knows what it needs. It is time to begin the journey toward loving yourself. Buddha said, “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” You can’t really argue with Buddha. When you love you, you are loved by someone special. 

 "Sarah Anderson, founder of Beautiful Health Within, is an Emotional Eating Expert, Coach & Writer. She provides food therapy to emotional eaters all over the country to crank their energy, drop the weight and rock their lives. Visit www.beautifulhealthwithin.com to learn more."

 

 

 

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New online and offline campaign to Address Bullying Strategies for Boys

May 14 2013in Whats New admin Comments Off on New online and offline campaign to Address Bullying Strategies for Boys

New Campgaign focuses on Bullying Strategies for Boys

Boys will be boys.  This common idiom may veil the heinous actions adolescent and teenage boys cast upon their male peers.  Bullying can take on many forms, ranging from name-calling, taunting to unwanted physical contact or even sexting, which can leave a target of bullying feeling very vulnerable. Name-calling is not as prevalent among female bullies as it is among males.

Snitching, or tattle-telling, is looked down upon by most students.  In fact, 80 percent of students never report bullying to an adult.  Both bystanders and targets of bullying are fearful of retaliation.  In order to support boys who are the targets of bullying overcome or handle a bullying situation, Beyond Bullies will be implementing a new online and offline campaign that will be addressing and teaching specific strategies that young boys can use against verbal bullying in a "classy" or "cool" fashion while receiving acceptance from their peers.

The saying fight fire with fire however is not applicable against verbal bullies because it is ineffective.  When a male bullying taunts his target, he wants a negative reaction in order to elevate his popularity and power. 

Unfortunately, many male students have been suspended when they have fought back verbally or physically after the bullying took its toll.  The bully wants his target to fight back and to demoralize them.  In an effort to help a target, Beyond Bullies will show boys how to divert the attack in a calm manner, while simultaneously gaining support from surrounding bystanders.

Learn More Now! 

 Written by, Jason Lam

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